This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by Wego’s editorial team.

In a recent report by the UN Tourism Barometer covering January to December 2023, Qatar and Saudi Arabia emerged as standout performers in the Middle East, showcasing impressive growth in international tourist arrivals, Wego reports.


The UN Tourism World Tourism Barometer regularly tracks short-term tourism trends globally, offering valuable insights into inbound and outbound tourism. The latest report indicates a significant recovery in international tourism, reaching 88% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with an estimated 1.286 billion international tourists recorded worldwide.

Middle East’s triumph: Qatar and KSA lead the recovery

The Middle East has taken a leading role in the rebound of the tourism sector, surpassing pre-pandemic levels with a significant 22% rise in arrivals compared to 2019. Qatar, especially propelled by the anticipation of the World Cup, witnessed a substantial 90% surge in international tourist arrivals.

This mirrors the trends observed in the previous reports from January to July 2023, where Qatar topped the charts with an impressive 95% growth rate. Contributing to the Middle East’s success, Saudi Arabia also played a significant role with a noteworthy 56% increase, showcasing the region’s robust recovery in the travel sector.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia Lead in Global Tourism Growth, UNWTO Reports


Global tourism roars back

The report unveils an overall optimistic outlook for the global tourism industry, projecting a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. Europe reached 94% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, while Africa and the Americas achieved 96% and 90%, respectively. Asia and the Pacific, although at 65% recovery, displayed a gradual upward trajectory throughout the year.

The total export revenues from tourism, including passenger transport, amounted to an impressive USD 1.6 trillion in 2023, almost reaching 95% of the 2019 figures. Economic recovery seems promising, with preliminary estimates indicating tourism’s direct gross domestic product (TDGDP) at USD 3.3 trillion in 2023, accounting for 3% of global GDP.

Qatar’s World Cup impact: a game-changer for tourism

Qatar’s exceptional performance can be attributed to its role as the host of the World Cup. The country experienced a 90% increase in international tourist arrivals, positioning it as one of the best-performing destinations globally. This surge underscores the significant impact of mega-events on tourism, providing a boost to Qatar’s economy and solidifying its position on the global tourism map.

As the tourism sector looks forward to a full recovery in 2024, the report concludes with a positive note, emphasizing the potential for increased air connectivity, the unleashing of pent-up demand, and a stronger recovery of Asian markets, contributing to a robust resurgence in the international travel landscape. However, economic and geopolitical challenges remain, posing potential hurdles to sustained recovery and confidence levels.